My nerves jangled like an old-school alarm clock as I watched the stage.
I repeated a silent prayer: Please. Just please, let something go his way.
To his face, I had made it seem like No Big Deal.
“If you don’t win, don’t worry about it. There will be plenty of other elections, plenty of other leadership opportunities. This is only the beginning.”
But it was a Big Deal. To him, and to me.
Because I’m the mom of an ordinary kid.
I’m the mom of a kid who runs on the wrong side of LuckyTown; who has to work just a little bit harder than everybody else at most things.
I’m the mom that sits at TaeKwonDo tournaments and hopes for the first place that doesn’t come. I’m the mom that’s been at soccer games and basketball games and ached inside, wishing that the sheer will of my love for this kid could make a ball float effortlessly from his foot or hand into the goal or hoop.
He is smart, but not a scary smart genius. Well-liked, but not charismatically popular. Funny, but not the class clown.
Ordinary in all the ways by which parents standing on a playground at recess would size kids up.
But he’s incredibly patient. He knows how to control his anger. He is intuitive, and so very kind. He respects rules. He is diligent, and earnest in everything he does. Everything.
He was so brave to be a new kid at school this year and run for Student Council Vice President and give a speech in front of hundreds of children, teachers, and parents.
The day before his speech, and the election, he came home after school and started crying when I pushed him to re-check his language arts homework. I watched as tears slowly filled his huge brown eyes like the porthole on a submarine.
“I had a bad day, Mom.”
There is a group of boys who plays basketball every day at recess. One of the boys is not being so nice to Boy Wonder and the others. He mocks them. Calls them names. Calls them retarded.
“I stood up to him today, Mom. He was making fun of my friend. And I walked over to him, and I pushed him, and I said, “You need to stop making fun of all of us. We’re tired of it.”
This is who my son is. Ordinary, and yet, so extraordinary in the ways that will never be measured on the athletic field or in the classroom.
I said, “I don’t care if you win this election or any other election. Do you know how special you are? Do you know how many kids would be afraid to stand up to a mean kid like that and defend his friends?”
But, like I said, I do care.
Not because the election is any sort of validation of who my kid is.
But because he fucking deserves it. That’s why.
He got up on that stage.
And he slayed his speech, improvising and adding little bits to make it funnier. This little 9 year-old boy that they told me might be autistic seven years ago.
We wouldn’t know the election results until the afternoon. I spent the day wondering, and whispering that prayer again: Please.
I got to the school early and pulled into the loading zone. I rolled my window down just in time to hear the principal get on the PA system.
“I’d like to announce the winners of the Student Council Elections.”
First historian, then treasurer, then secretary, then vice-president.
“Our new Vice President….”
I rifled through my mental rolodex of past moments just like this. Tournaments and games. I held my breath, yearning again the way only a mother of an ordinary kid can.
And I heard his name.